BCMC board members hold impromptu press conference

Published 3:14 am Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Staff writer

Some members of Beaufort County Medical Center’s Board of Trustees say their efforts to have questions about recent board actions answered have been rebuffed by the board’s chairman, Edwin M. “Sandy” Hardy.
But in an interview with the Washington Daily News, Hardy said that everyone will be given the chance to ask questions and “speak their peace” at a meeting next week of Beaufort Regional Health System’s Board of Commissioners.
The medical center’s board members also serve on Beaufort Regional Health System’s Board of Commissioners, which is scheduled to meet Tuesday, July 13.
“Everybody needs to calm down, speak their peace and conduct business properly according to the by-laws,” he said.
Alice Mills Sadler, vice chairman of the board, and board members Clifton Gray, Brenda Peacock, Hood Richardson and Allen Roberson said in a press conference called Tuesday at the medical center that they hope some of their questions will be answered at that meeting.
Gray, Richardson and Mills Sadler had called a special meeting of the Beaufort Regional Health System Authority for 1 p.m. Tuesday to discuss an agreement with University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina to manage the medical center.
But Tuesday morning, about an hour before the meeting was to take place, Hardy canceled it.
A statement released by medical center spokeswoman Pam Shadle quotes Hardy as saying that he has said on more than one occasion that “we are going to run our meetings according to statutes, rules and regulations to the best of my ability.”
Hardy cited several reasons for canceling the meeting. Among them are that he did not receive a copy of the meeting notice, that the notice required five signatures, that it cited incorrect bylaw sections and “(m)ost importantly a meeting of the Beaufort County Hospital Association, Inc. was never called.”
The five board members, Hardy and Vice Chief of Staff Rachel McCarter arrived at the medical center, formerly Beaufort County Hospital, despite Hardy’s action.
McCarter left after a few minutes.
The five held the press conference after they tried, but failed, to meet with Hardy in the board meeting room, Mills Sadler said.
The five met for about 20 minutes, during which time two medical center employees were posted outside the entrance to the center’s administrative offices. The employees rebuffed efforts by the local press corps and members of the public to attend the meeting, despite the fact that a majority of the board was present.
Mills Sadler said she was unaware that the press was being kept away.
She said that the board members who called the meeting were following procedures Hardy had given them for calling the meeting.
“Our chairman provided us with misinformation about how the meeting should be called,” she said.
However, Hardy told the Daily News that the board members did not receive misinformation. Instead, he said, they were following the wrong set of by-laws to call the meeting.
“If they properly call a meeting, I would have no choice but to conduct it,” he said.
Tuesday’s events highlight a deep division in the board as its members debate the future of the medical center.
Speaking for the members in attendance at the press conference, Mills Sadler said they have questions about a vote last week by the medical center board to tap a team from University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina to manage the day-to-day operations of the medical center following the recent resignation of the health system’s chief executive officer, Bill Bedsole.
Meanwhile, UHS Chief Executive Officer Dave C. McRae has indicated that no such management agreement is in the works and that UHS has simply agreed to help the Beaufort County Medical Center find an interim replacement for Bedsole.
In a letter to Hardy, dated July 2, and in a “Message from Leadership” posted on the internet June 30, UHS indicates that it is ready to provide the local medical center with help replacing its chief executive officer and has not been asked to provide management services.
“UHS is working with Beaufort Regional Health System to identify an interim chief executive officer to guide Beaufort County Medical Center as it determines its future,” McRae said in the leadership message.
McRae’s statement was echoed in a statement released late Friday by Hardy, which said BRHS and UHS have entered discussions regarding the hiring of an interim chief executive officer for BCMC. Under the proposed arrangement, UHS would provide an interim CEO, who would oversee day-to-day operations at the hospital.
“The two organizations are finalizing details of the agreement, including financial terms,” Hardy said.
But the board members who met with the press Tuesday said that this is not the agreement the board reached last week.
They also said Hardy has not answered their questions about how much an interim chief executive officer would cost.
“We want to make sure we are not over-extending ourselves,” Mills Sadler said. “This agreement is something different than was voted on.”
Richardson said McRae’s letter and message indicates that “without board approval, the action plan was changed. I was not under the impression that we were seeking an interim CEO.”
Gray said he continues to be confident in the leadership provided by the current management team headed, under the local hospital’s succession plan, by Susan Shaw Gerard.
“I believe Susan Gerard is very capable of managing the hospital,” he said.